Gary Hill: Donald Young Gallery

By Yood, James | Artforum International, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Gary Hill: Donald Young Gallery


Yood, James, Artforum International


Of the eight works in Donald Young Gallery's recent Gary Hill micro-retrospective--dating from 1978 to 2005--Accordions (The Belsunce Recordings, July 2001), 2001-2002, is the largest. A room-filling video installation, its five projectors generate a jarring sequence of images, each staccato snippet accompanied by a dissonant sound track of blips and crackles. Hill shot the footage in Belsunce, a working-class area of Marseilles with a large population of French Algerians. Employing his camera as a tool of casual surveillance, the artist captured short street-life vignettes, zooming in and out with the seemingly unpremeditated glance of a passerby. In the installation, these images usually appear and accrete for no more than a few seconds, just long enough to communicate a sense of the complex postcolonial reality of the French Algerians, of their existence within a structure that they are simultaneously part of and "other" to. Hill, always drawn to the ambiguities of such liminal states, illuminates their urban tapestry in a way that makes overtly neat political or sociological categorizations pat and inadequate.

This achievement notwithstanding, Hill's recent work displays a quality of whimsy and even humor rather unexpected from an artist whose projects have tended to be marked by a determined solemnity. Even the title of Big Legs Don't Cry, 2005, has an exuberant air, fully borne out by the work itself. Part of an ongoing series of computer-generated videos shown on LCD monitors, it depicts a man's legs and feet, clad in pressed tan slacks and brown shoes, standing atop an open book. …

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